12 May - 18 May 2011 Hampi

South Asia
Republic of Incredible India, the world's biggest democrazy
Kiran Guest House +918394204159
Clean single room with private bathroom for only INR 265.- or US$ 6.- per night. Reasonable wifi and a friendly host family.
The beer-free landscape supports abrupt detox; also great opportunity to listen to the healing music from Adele and Amy.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Kiran Guest House in Hampi, which we would recommend, and for directions:

Matt: Exploring present-day Hampi Bazaar where privileged underprivileged locals live in the dirt and dust of their crumbling 500-year old ruins-turned-shops and make a living from both (i) the poor international backpackers on a budget (bland Western breakfast for INR 200.- or US$ 5.- plus stale coffee for INR 40.- or US$ 0.90 per cup) and (ii) the rich Indian pilgrims on a spending spree (delicious Indian breakfast puri with unlimited aloo subji [spicy potato curry] for INR 5.- or US$ 0.10 per piece plus sweetened strong milk tea aka masala chai for INR 5.- or US$ 0.10 per cup).
"To the pilgrims Vijayanagar is its surviving temple. The surrounding destruction is like proof of the virtue of old magic; just as the fantasy of past splendour is accommodated within an acceptance of present squalor. That once glorious avenue - not a national monument, still permitted to live - is a slum. Its surface, where unpaved, is a green-black slurry of mud and excrement, through which the sandaled pilgrims unheedingly pad to the food stalls and souvenir shops, loud and gay with radios. And there are starved squatters with their starved animals in the ruins, the brolen stone facades patched up with mud and rocks, the doorways stripped of the sculptures which existed until recently. Life goes on, the past continues. After conquest and destruction, the past simply reasserts itself."

Matt: Climbing one of the tall gopuram (towered temple gateways topped by a single wagon-vault) at Hampi’s Virupaksha Temple, and thereafter touring the atmospheric and busy temple itself which draws a steady flow of pilgrims from all over southern India and troops of fearless monkeys from the village gardens.

Matt: Rambling through the ruins of 14th-century CE Vijayanagar aka City of Victory littered among golden-brown granite boulders and leafy banana fields, thus visiting (i) the Vitthala Temple with its monolithic granite musical pillars (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), (ii) the magnificent Achutaraya Temple aka Tiruvengalanatha Temple with its beautiful stone carvings and (iii) a multitude of smaller fry: monolithic deities, crumbling buildings and abandoned temples dominated by towering gopuram.

Matt: Hanging out at the sacred ford/ghats at the Tungavhadra River, (i) where fully clad pilgrims bathe in the river water, (ii) where the heavily made-up temple elephant earns her fodder by blessing and splashing the pilgrims and (iii) where Indian coracles (light bowl-shaped boats with a frame of reeds or saplings covered with tarred hides) ply from this part of the river bank, just as they did five centuries ago, ferrying villagers to the fields.

Matt: Watching the sunrise from Matanga Hill, upon whose summit a small stone temple provided an extraordinary vantage point, and the sunset from Hemakuta Hill, dotted with pre-Vijayanagar temples that date from the 9th century CE, admiring the views of the ruins and surrounding countryside and closing my old eyes to a beautiful young elf's seductive charm.

"Hungry as an archway
through which the troops have passed,
I stand in ruins behind you,
with your winter clothes, your broken sandal straps.
I love to see you naked over there
especially from the back."

Matt: Taking a local bus from Hampi to Hospet (10 bumpy km, 30 min, INR 9.- or US$ 0.20 per person) thus sharing the potholes with the usual suspects (many holy cows, pigs, goats, sheep, dogs, rats and a lonely elephant) and thereafter a K.S.R.T.C. rust bucket (Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation), driven by a maniac, from Hospet to the rather non-descript town of Raichur (180 km, 5 ½ hours, INR 132.- or US$ 3.- per person).

Click below for more blog posts about fearless monkeys and apes
22 Dec - 31 Dec 2014 Agra
21 Oct - 28 Oct 2014 Kathmandu
11 Jul - 01 Sep 2013 Kuching
18 Apr - 22 Apr 2013 Phetchaburi
 25 Jul - 29 Jul 2011 Chukai
Click below for a summary of this year's travels
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